Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Big News on the Big Ten

Lest anyone thinks that I'm a little late to the Big Ten Conference dance, I'll blame YouTube for the delay in getting this blog entry posted.

The timing of Monday's announcement was fortuitous, since I had already scheduled an afternoon meeting with Joe Battista. With video camera and Rodney Martin in tow, we sat down with Joe and got his thoughts on the conference and an update on the coach search, scheduling and other team-related news.

The inaugural varsity schedule will be a good one, including a trip to the Kohl Center in Madison and games against some familiar and not-so-familiar schools.

If it wasn't for the incredibly slow upload speed at You Tube I would have had this posted early this morning, but six-plus hours to upload this video was a teeny bit frustrating, to say the least.

Monday's news was really no surprise, even with the revelation that the conference will form a year earlier than initially planned. As a result, Penn State will play one season as an independent before joining Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State and Minnesota in college hockey's newest conference.

Naturally, there is a great deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth from observers who feel the BTHC is the end of college hockey. Just take a quick swing through this thread on College Hockey Online to see what I mean. Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez is as popular there as George W. Bush is on the Huffington Post!

Even Adam Woden of College Hockey News, admits that "I was on record as far back as four years ago saying that the Big Ten was inevitable, and that we should just all embrace it instead of resisting it."

Now that it's here, the "worry wart in me is concerned."

This announcement was made before any sort of scheduling deal was made — if there is, in fact, one ever coming. I've been told that the Big Ten may have expedited the announcement in order to give everyone else more time to figure out where the dust will settle. If so, OK, but it still would've be nice to take some time and figure out how to be the good soldier they've talked about.

I love the idea of Penn State hockey, and I feel great for a guy like Joe Battista, the former club coach and current associate AD at PSU, who had been determined for years to get it and had started to give up hope. And in many ways, adding Penn State to the hockey family is a great thing. But it's not going to be great if it comes at the expense of existing programs.

Of course, that's not all on Penn State, and nothing should stop them from forming a program. But Penn State talks about how great this is for college hockey, yet there's nothing being done by anyone in the Big Ten to prevent a possible catastrophe — i.e. seeing other programs disappear.

Fortunately, there are people who see the positive aspects of the Big Ten Conference. I'll leave it up to Lake Superior State coach Jim Roque to put it all in perspective.

Roque was quoted in a Detroit Free Press report by George Sipple.

Wise words, especially coming from the bench boss of one of the "small school" teams that will supposedly face the biggest impact from the Big Ten Conference:

"I think it's good for college hockey," Roque said. "I think the Big Ten moniker's going to, obviously, provide more exposure to college hockey. I look at it this way: I'm in the water with all these schools. As the water rises, my boat rises, too.

"We don't recruit against those schools. That's not going to affect us. We're not going to lose a kid to the Big Ten league. The negative for us is, obviously, not getting those schools in our building, and I understand that part of it."

But Roque said the home schedule won't be affected drastically.

"Ohio State's never been a big draw for us," he said. "We've never had Wisconsin or Minnesota here. So, really, we're talking about two schools -- and we usually get one of them a year. We never get Michigan and Michigan State (at home) the same year. ... So you're talking about two home games a year, basically."

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